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For class of S.F. high school juniors, WWII details are elusive

If high school juniors' answers to a World War II questionnaire were strung together, here's how history would look:

World War II took place in 19-something, when Theodore Roosevelt was president and the Germans claimed to be the best race.

Hoping to aid Third World countries, the United States joined the war to stop racism and end the dispute over Jews.

The head of the Nazis was a killer named Hitler whose evil partner, Mussolini, was president of the USSR. Ultimately, the war ended with the bombing of Iwo Jima and Hitler's suicide. Then a treaty was signed.

Not every 11th-grader who answered a Chronicle questionnaire at San Francisco's Burton High School responded with such a fractured version of history. Eight of the 34 students said correctly that"Roosevelt" or"FDR" was president during most of the war, apparently remembering the subject they had studied as sophomores last spring. Most knew about the attempted genocide of the Jews, all but three recognized Hitler, and eight placed the war in the 1940s.

But others, perhaps suffering a temporary memory lapse, variously named George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon and Winston Churchill as the war's main president. Eighteen students wisely left the answer blank.

"It's a bit disappointing," sighed their teacher, Theresa Quindlen, head of Burton High's history department, who agreed to let The Chronicle quiz her students and print the results."But maybe something will spark their interest, and they'll become future readers of history."

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  • Read entire article at San Francisco Chronicle